Stickier than a 3 year old's hands after eating at IHOP!

My Sony gear has arrived, and I have been able to use it for almost a week. I would like to share my first impressions on the Sony A7iii and the Sony FE 5.6-6.3 200-600 G OSS lens. The A7iii has been out for awhile so there are more than a few reviews on the web and Youtube, and the specs are readily available, so I will keep this section to my experiences with moving from Canon to Sony.

More menu items then an Indecisive Restaurant

In my mind a camera is a camera. At its core you have to tell it what to do. This doesn’t change with the Sony, but how you do that is a very different experience. Yes, as everyone knows, Sony is a very menu driven system, but in my opinion there is a very good reason for this.

The level of customizability is staggering! You have the ability to change what every button, switch, and wheel does, so the menu options are bountiful. Is this different from the Canon? Yes, and I still am not fully satisfied with the way I have it set, but the ability to make the camera fit the way you work, and not the other way around is exciting. Already I can make changes and adjustments faster than I could do with my Canon.

I found that the menus can be intimidating and the language they use is less than intuitive. There is a great resource on Youtube for setting up your specific Sony camera. Mark Galer's Alpha Creative Skills channel is a must see. He has videos for every Sony Alpha cameras, master classes on specific topics and cameras, and even free downloadable e-books! If you have a Sony camera, do yourself a favour and check out his channel. Without Mark’s channel my transition from Canon to Sony would not have gone as smoothly. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd333V2AbeUItnE_fO1zRtA

The two things that I am enjoying the most are the EVF, with its WYSIWYG view of the world, and the AF performance. As you may have noticed I like taking images of birds. Usually I don’t have time to take a test shot of the bird, and then chimp the image to see if the exposure is correct. I would normally set a base exposure before the action started, and then make adjustments based on any changes to the lighting conditions relying on my experience to determine what those changes should be. With the EVF I can see what the exposure is before I press the shutter release. This allows me to make faster, more accurate exposure decisions on the spur of the moment.

The EVF does have its drawbacks, such ato see anything in the EVF you have to have the camera on and awake. Also it is not as clear as looking through a DSLR viewfinder, but the WYSIWYG outways any complaints. It only took an hour or two to completely adjust to the EVF, and now looking through a DSLR feels unnatural.

The AF performance of the Sony has left the biggest impact on me. In a word it is amazing! It did take some testing and practice to find the settings that work best for me. Once the Sony AF locks onto a subject it is stickier than a 3 year old’s hands after eating at IHOP! It simply won’t let go! It is fast, accurate, and the tracking is scary good.

I have been able to lock onto a Swallow that was too far away for any usable shots, but it locked on and tracked that swallow as it darted around the viewfinder. With the Canon I would have been lucky if the AF even found the Swallow, but the Sony locked on, and almost every single frame was in focus!

Is it perfect? No, but it is the best AF performance that I have ever used, by a long shot. It is also important to remember that this is with Sony’s entry level full frame camera, not it’s top of the line A9! The value for dollar with the A7iii is hard to beat, but I am looking forward to seeing what Sony does with the A9ii. This would be a good time to mention that Photo Central in Winnipeg now does financing!

There are some things that I am not as excited about with the camera. It is a little small for me, but I shoot with a grip, and that addition has helped a lot. It appears that Sony has realized this and has made it’s latest model, the A7Riv, larger. The only other thing I am missing from my Canon is battery life. With the EVF and back screen the battery life is not nearly as good as with the Canon 5Div. This doesn’t mean that I am unhappy with battery life. On the contrary, it has surprised me on how good it is, but it is just not as good as the Canon. I come home from a day afield and usually have lots of the charge left in the second battery in the grip. As a huge plus, I can recharge through the camera’s USB port, and keep shooting. This will be great If I am in an area where I don’t have access to power. I can simply use a portable battery pack to recharge.

Slice tomatoes so thin your in-laws will never come back.

The one word I would use to describe Sony FE 5.6-6.3 200-600 G OSS lens is sharp. Images are so sharp I’m sure you could shave with them. I can’t say enough good things about this lens. Before it arrived I had watched every review of it I could find, even ones not in english. They all said that they were surprised how sharp this lens is, and I think they were being conservative. It’s that good.

As well as being sharp its compact for a 600mm, it’ relatively light (very hand-holdable), and silent, The image stabilization is wonderful, and the zoom ring is a short through from 200-600. The real game changer is that the lens does not extend when you zoom! This allows me to us it on my gimbal head. Other zoom lenses that extend when zoomed are unusable with a gimbal as their centre of gravity changes when you zoom. This would cause the gimbal to become unbalanced and a nightmare to use.

The AF of this lens is snappy. It does have 3 focus ranges you can choose from to make it even faster. They are Full range, 2.4m-10m, and 10m - ∞. If you are using manual focus, the focus ring is smooth to easy to turn. Add to that focus peaking, and manual focusing becomes very fast and accurate.

For those who may use this for video, it is almost silent. I say almost because I haven’t used it for video so I can’t say if an external mic would pick up any sound, but I cannot hear anything, and I have tried.

I don’t understand why they don’t make the lens foot ARCA Swiss compatible. That would save me from having to by another plate to use it on my tripod. The other thing that would have been nice is someway to lock the zoom ring so I don’t accidently turn it. Neither are deal breakers, but rather minor complaints. I had to think hard to come up with these two!

Some people will complain about the minimum aperture of f/6.3 at 600mm. I don’t agree with these complaints. Lens speed costs money. This lens is $2600 CDN. The 600mm f/4 lens is over $10,000 more for just an additional 1 1/3 stops of light! You can even use this lens with Sony 1.4x and 2x teleconverters and retain full AF performance!

Yes it would be great if the lens was a constant f/5.6, but it is only a 1/3 stop difference. from 5.6 to 6.3 You can easily adjust the ISO 1/3 stop higher without any noticeable increase in grain.

A Better Mousetrap?

Change can be hard and scary. I was more than happy with the results I would get with my Canon 5D MKiv, 300 f2.8, and 2X iii extender, but there were times I would think that there must be a better way. In my opinion this combination is a better way. It will take some more time to get the settings to where I am happy, but the ability to adjust them to how I work is worth the headaches.

My original plan was to hold on to my go to trusty Canon setup for a month or two so I could decided if the Sony was a decision I could live with. It took less then a week to decide to sell my Canon gear!

If you shoot wildlife or action, and are in the market for a new setup, I would highly recommend that you look at the Sony offerings. I can’t think of a better value in camera gear right now given the features that the combination of the A7iii and the FE 5.6-6.3 200-600 G OSS lens offer.

Walter Potrebka

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A couple of reminders. My 2020 calendars are ready to order at: https://www.wpotrebkaphotography.com/2020-calendar

and registration for my October 7th Goose Flight Workshop at FortWhyte Alive is now open at:

https://www.fortwhyte.org/event/goose-flight-photography-workshop/

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